North Korea test-launched a new intercontinental ballistic missile system on Feb. 26 and March 4, said a senior Biden administration official, calling it a "serious escalation." The system was first presented during the Korean Workers Party parade on Oct. 10, 2020. The 2022 launches did not demonstrate ICBM range or capability but they were likely aimed at testing elements of the new system.
The official said he predicted a future launch at “full range” possibly disguised as a space launch.
"The United States strongly condemns the DPRK for these tests the official said. "These launches are a brazen violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions, aimlessly raise tensions and risk destabilizing the security situation in the region."
The official said that, unlike North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s past tests, his country "tried to hide these escalatory steps."
The Biden administration continues to seek a diplomatic solution toward its goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, and the official reiterated Thursday the administration is "prepared to meet without preconditions."
"President Biden himself has previously made clear that he is open to meeting with Kim Jong Un when there is a serious agreement on the table," the official noted.
This week, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command ordered "intensified" intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance in the Yellow Sea. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command also added "enhanced readiness among our ballistic missile.”
North Korea in January fired what appeared to be its most powerful missile since President Biden took office, a move senior U.S. officials described at the time as concerning and "increasingly destabilizing."
"Flight tests are part of North Korea’s effort to expand the number and type of missile systems capable of delivering nuclear warheads to the entire United States," according to the assessment. "North Korea continues to seek a sea-based nuclear-strike capability."
The intelligence community also warned that North Korea’s "chemical and biological weapons (CBW) capabilities remain a threat" and said U.S. intelligence officials are "concerned that Pyongyang may use such weapons during a conflict or in an unconventional or clandestine attack."
The intelligence community found that Kim "views nuclear weapons and ICBMs as the ultimate guarantor of his totalitarian and autocratic rule of North Korea and believes that, over time, he will gain international acceptance as a nuclear power."